A handful of survivors from a disastrous 1528 Spanish expedition to Florida journey across the coast until they reach Mexico.
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Dorantes
...
Cascabel / Araino
Carlos Castañón ...
Castillo
Gerardo Villarreal ...
Estebanico
Roberto Cobo ...
Lozoya (as Roberto 'Calambres' Cobo)
José Flores ...
Malacosa
Eli 'Chupadera' Machuca ...
Sorcerer
Farnesio de Bernal ...
Fray Suárez
Josefina Echánove ...
Anciana Avavar
Max Kerlow ...
Man in Armor
Óscar Yoldi ...
Esquivel
Ramón Barragán ...
Pánfilo de Narváez
Julio Solórzano Foppa ...
Alcaraz
Javier Escobar Villarreal ...
Young Iguase Indian
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Storyline

An international award winning saga of old Mexico. In 1528, a Spanish expedition founders off the coast of Florida with 600 lives lost. One survivor, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, roams across the American continent searching for his Spanish comrades. Instead, he discovers the Iguase, an ancient Indian tribe. Over the next eight years, Cabeza de Vaca learns their mystical and mysterious culture, becoming a healer and a leader. But soon this New World collides with the Old World as Spanish conquistadors seek to enslave the Indians, and Cabeza de Vaca must confront his own people and his past. Written by Concorde - New Horizons (with permission).

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

17 April 1992 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die Abenteuer des Cabeza de Vaca  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Gross:

$789,127 (USA)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Eastmancolor)
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The huge figure of a naked man wielding a club which is created by the Indian sorcerer is an accurate representation of the ancient Celtic chalk carving known as the Cerne Abbas Giant, which is 60 metres in height and is located on a hillside overlooking the village of Cerne Abbas in Dorset, England. See more »

Connections

Featured in Conquistadors (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

Interesting, but not historical
27 July 2002 | by (Richmond, CA) – See all my reviews

"Cabeza de Vaca" may be viewed as a surrealistic rumination on the nature of early contact between Europeans and North American Indians, but it has very little to do with the actual narrative of events as presented to Charles V by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca in his 1542 report.

Viewers who may wonder about the rapid transition from Florida to the Southwest in the movie should realize that the opening scene depicting the separation of the rafts of Captain Narvaez and Cabeza de Vaca took place off the coast of Louisiana WEST of the Mississippi more than a year after their first landfall in Florida, despite the meager information provided in the opening credits. Cabeza de Vaca is also presented as Treasurer to the King of Spain, when in fact he was merely treasurer of that particular expedition.

And although the long sequence early in the movie showing Cabeza de Vaca's period of slavery to the Indian sorcerer and the armless dwarf is quite interesting to see, there is no corresponding incident in the explorer's writings. C de V did report on a brief period of enslavement, but that is all. No sorcerer, no dwarf.

Similarly, the bond created between C de V and the young Indian who he cures by removing an arrowhead is not in the original narrative, but rather a conflation of several different episodes from the journey.

The key scenes of capture and near-murder by the blue-painted Indians are wholly the creation of the screenwriter.

The movie has an inconsistent approach to nudity. Most of the Indian tribes encountered by C de V went entirely naked during the warm season, but are almost always shown with at least some kind of loincloth. However, during the "blue Indian" sequence and later, when the survivors are taken in by friendly Indians for a while, full nudity is present among the females, and even full-frontal on the part of an Indian girl who offers herself to one of C de V's men. Meant to be tittilating? I don't know. It wasn't. In C de V's report, he notes a number of times that he and his Spanish companions were, for a long period, "naked as the day we were born," but there is no male nudity whatsoever in the film.

So what is accurate? The suffering endured, for sure, and the apparent success of the Spaniards in "curing" Indians through the power of God. The arrival in Mexico toward the end, and the capture of the Indians there as slaves. That's about it.

Nevertheless, the film holds the attention throughout, and the final scene of Indians bearing the enormous silver cross through the desert is quite arresting.

6 out of 10 for me.


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